Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Forest History Society

The Forest History Society is a nonprofit library and archive dedicated to collecting, preserving, and disseminating forest and conservation history for all to use. The Society links the past to the future while reminding us about our important forest heritage.

The Forest History Society (FHS) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit educational institution located in Durham, North Carolina, that links the past to the future by identifying, collecting, preserving, interpreting, and disseminating information on the history of interactions between people, forests, and their related resources -- timber, water, soil, forage, fish and wildlife, recreation, and scenic or spiritual values. Through programs in research, publication, and education, the Society promotes and rewards scholarship in the fields of forest, conservation, and environmental history while reminding all of us about our important forest heritage.
(The above is a direct quote from the FHS website.  The site also features a search of their archives, with quite a few items about the Mount Hood National Forest.  It is certainly worth a look-see as we while away the winter.)

The website:

Unidentified ranger looks northeast from Oakgrove Butte Lookout in the Mt. Hood National Forest, Oregon with Mt. Hood in the distance

1910, Mt. Hood National Forest fire team

Clackamas River Bull Trout - A Reintroduction

They were once here, but now are just a memory.  The 20th century was hell on wild creatures, with fish and amphibians being especially hard-hit.  Development is never positive from the eyes of a fish.
The bull trout was once found throughout the Columbia River Basin, east to western Montana, south to northern Nevada, west to California and possibly as far north as southeastern Alaska. The main populations remaining in the lower 48 states are in Montana, Idaho, Oregon and Washington, with a small population in northern Nevada. The bull trout has small, pale yellow-to-crimson spots on a darker background, fading to white on the belly.
Western Native Trout Initiative

In 2007 the US Forest Service completed a feasibility study about the reintroduction of Bull Trout into the Clackamas River.

Happily, the reintroduction began in 2011:

Reintroduction Final Rule

On June 21, 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in cooperation with the State of Oregon, USDA Forest Service and other project partners, published a final rule in the Federal Register to establish a nonessential experimental population (NEP) of bull trout in the Clackamas River and its tributaries in Clackamas County, Oregon, under section 10(j) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973. The geographic boundaries of the NEP would include the entire Clackamas River subbasin as well as the mainstem Willamette River, from Willamette Falls to its points of confluence with the Columbia River, including Multnomah Channel. Based on findings from the 2007 Clackamas Bull Trout Reintroduction Feasibility Assessment, we believe a reintroduction of bull trout to the Clackamas River subbasin is biologically feasible and will promote the recovery of the species. The Fish and Wildlife Service and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, along with our project partners, plan to begin translocating multiple life stages of bull trout from the Metolius River to the Clackamas River in July 2011.

Will it work?  Will they come back?  Are healthy ecosystems even possible with so much fragmentation?
Our descendants will have to tell us.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Blair Lake in November - A Photo Essay

Blair Lake is located deep in the Oregon Cascades near the town of Oakridge, in the Willamette National Forest.  Although a distant cousin of the Clackamas Watershed, the ecosystems are very similar and comprise almost the same tree species and elevations.  In spite of similarities, each forest is very unique with no two alike anywhere in the world.
While climbing the sides of Mule Mountain, I was struck by the amazing size of ancient trees, well above 5000' in an area sure to have a deep winter snowpack.  Blair and her November coat are still, raindrenched, and hushed to the autumn tones that seem to await winter's blanket with a soft and giddy anticipation.

"All's well that ends well"

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Blog Crossover!

I apologize for the lack of posts, but it has been a wonderfully hectic summer with madcap adventures in the high country!  Now that the rain is back I will have plenty of time to lament and romanticize that great ball of warmth in the sky.

In the meantime, please check out my recent article published in VW Camper & Bus.  It's not too much of stretch really, just more VW Buses in the wilderness doing what they do best.  Most of the photos are in the Mt. Hood National Forest, and most of those are in the Clackamas River Ranger District, my favorite home away from home.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Bull of the Woods Wilderness - Fire Damage

Although our past 2 Portland-area summers have been unusually cool and damp, both years have boasted extensive fires in our beloved Bull of the Woods Wilderness.  
Please see the map below for areas to avoid in Bull of the Woods; post-fire areas can be very dangerous until the damage has been evaluated and the trails and camps repaired.  Don't take a chance!  A falling burned snag (dead standing tree) can injure or kill you.

courtesy of US Forest Service, Mt. Hood National Forest
(Map current as of July 2012)

 Fire is part of the natural order here in the American West.  In fact, some tree species won't even spit out their seeds until a fire bakes the cones.  Big thick barked Douglas Firs can withstand all but the most brutal blazes, thriving in the rich soils provided by a post-fire ecology.  

Mt. Hood nearly obscured by smoke in 2011

All NW forests will have their days of rich green glory, and all NW forests will have their day in the bright orange blaze.

But just how much is left to burn?  Is an un-managed forest even possible in this era?  We live in strange times indeed, where even the sanctity of the forest isn't guaranteed.  Perhaps it never was.

Bull of the Woods bracketed by clearcuts (courtesy of Google Maps)

Like your driver's licence, wilderness is a privilege, not a right.  It is up to us to take better care of our forests, lest they be gone forever.  It is up to us, working with the grace of a higher power. 


Tuesday, July 3, 2012


From the pen of my 8 year old.  Kid wisdom is astounding...

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Portland Oregon Crosscut Saw Sharpening

Life is a funny thing.  I started this blog to showcase the forgotten history of the Mt. Hood National Forest.  My intent is to make the past come alive and incorporate classic outdoor skills and tools into our modern world.
  Through my search for the surviving past, and my experiences restoring wilderness trails, I came across a familiar old friend to grizzled veterans of the woods - our friend the crosscut saw.  Little did I know how much interest these old saws would bring; so many people are seeking modern answers for these old relics and continue to require the services of a good saw sharpener.  I was also surprised to learn that it is quite difficult to find someone to sharpen these saws in the Portland area, despite the profusion of forests surrounding Stumptown and the classic historic use of these tools.

I'd like to begin this article with a very brief explanation of the crosscut, why anyone still cares about this old antique, and finish with my experiences sharpening a brand new crosscut saw.

Crosscuts really did change our lands within a generation.  Although they're powered by sweat and muscle alone, those floppy old saws could clear entire forests surrounding the steam powered logging camps.  It's all now just a distant memory.

Crosscut saws are precise instruments from a lost age, impossible to even recreate in these modern times.  Both the equipment to create the saws and the men who knew how to run them have passed into history.  

The era of the crosscut saw ended rather abruptly in the 1950s with the development of a practical gas powered chainsaw.  Although rather heavy and cumbersome, it was clearly a more efficient machine despite its belch of foul exhaust and deafening yell.  The writing was on the wall.

Feb 1938 Modern Mechanix

However, a strange exception was about to occur.  Federal law was about to outlaw the use of the chainsaw - on certain lands of course.  Elsewhere on the National Forests, clearcutting continued at unprecedented levels.

With the coming of the Wilderness Act in 1964 came new rules for ancient lands:


(c) Except as specifically provided for in this Act, and subject to existing private rights, there shall be no commercial enterprise and no permanent road within any wilderness area designated by this Act and, except as necessary to meet minimum requirements for the administration of the area for the purpose of this Act (including measures required in emergencies involving the health and safety of persons within the area), there shall be no temporary road, no use of motor vehicles, motorized equipment or motorboats, no landing of aircraft, no other form of mechanical transport, and no structure or installation within any such area.

These new rules once again changed the role of the crosscut saw.  Taken down from dusty shelves and rusting in barns, saws were resharpened and put back into use clearing the historic trails that they helped create.  It quickly became clear that those old timers were built of pretty strong stuff as a new generation took to the trails with the sleek silver saws gently flopping over shoulders.

I have written a couple of previous articles on my own experiences with the crosscut saw, including restoring and sharpening old saws, then later using them on the trail.
Let's Sharpen a Crosscut Saw
Let's Sharpen (Another) Crosscut Saw

Now, let's sharpen a brand new saw.

Recently I was contacted by Ray Marsh of Albany, Oregon.  Ray owns L&R Saw and Supply, and he has been sharpening crosscut saws for the past 60 years.  Remarkable, and I was eager to meet the man.

L & R Saw & Supply
438 Queen Ave SW
Albany OR 97322
541-990-0490 cell
We can cut any material up to 6" thick, 5 ft x 10 ft. in size. In some instances we can cut material 40-50 ft long. 
Our hourly charge for computer work is $70 per hour. If customer has the ability to have drawing for auto cad 2005 will save them lots of time. There is still computer time because we have to make sure all lines are connected for reading. 
We can cut logos in existing saws or wood or plastic or glass but no SAFETY GLASS. You give us a design and we can draw and cut it.

Ray owns a full service saw and metal cutting shop in Albany, with the ability to water jet cut any pattern of saw in any material and length.  He needed a local person to sharpen a brand new 6 foot lance-tooth bucking saw, and was having a difficult time, until he discovered the Green Cascadia blog.

Ray drove up from Albany to deliver a brand new 6 foot saw blank as well as a control sample.

"Make it this way", he told me with a smile.  The saw would be used for competition for a local high school.
  We talked a while about his life and business, and then I was left with a shop full of gleaming teeth on silver bands.  What is this, 1935?  Well I wanted to recreate history, so here we are.

Never before have I sharpened a brand new saw - all of my other experience has been restoring vintage saws that had already been used in life and were somewhat set already.  Heck, until Ray contacted me I had no idea there was a local saw manufacturer to begin with.  I was excited for the experience and quickly got to work.

On the bench and ready to go

Brand spanking new!

This saw is considered a blank, which means the outline of the teeth have been cut from bare metal.  In this case, high speed bandsaw steel, strong and springy enough to withstand the rigors of heavy use.  Other than an outline of the teeth and rakers, the saw has no sharpness whatsoever.  

before sharpening

Jointing the saw.  I discover that the process that cut the saw tapered the material slightly, so the jointing must go deep enough to compensate for this.  Of course I found out the hard way, well into sharpening the saw...

Next comes setting the raker depth, then filing and swaging them.  The tooth pattern and size is somewhat unusual - this is a custom designed saw with smaller than usual cutting teeth and exaggerated raker shape.  I find the rakers challenging to swage with a crosscut hammer due to the hardness of the material and the odd shape, but soon get the hang of it.  Just like falling off a log.

After consulting a few metalworking experts, I decide to sharpen this saw by hand, pointing each tooth individually with a hand file.  This becomes unbelievably tedious; next time I will use a small grinder to rough in the teeth first.  It was however a good way to get to know the properties of the material.

 pointing up cutting teeth

Done! (with 2 at least...)  Razor sharp, watch your fingers!

Finished with the cutting teeth after many long hours.  Although I was still very careful I still managed to cut the hell out of my fingers.  A lesson learned: I really (really) need a better saw vice for positioning the saw.

Finally it's time to set the splay of the cutting teeth with hammer and anvil.  Once again this takes quite a solid whack to get this tough material to bend.

 A crossshaped gauge called a spider is used to verify the correct set.  Mississippi  John Hurt's lost words from '28 ring through my ears, "I'm a spider, I'm a spider crawling down your wall sweet mama".  

And then just like that, I'm done.  A job well done no less.  
Be sure to oil the saw or it will quickly rust, ruining your hard work.

And not a moment too soon.

Please contact me if you have an old crosscut that needs restoration or sharpening.  I can also custom sharpen a new saw (like the one shown here) manufactured by L&R Saw and Supply. Just send me an email for more information and I'll be happy to get back to you.  Thanks for reading, and please check out the other Green Cascadia articles if you've enjoyed what you've read.

Happy trails!